Holidays in Florence –
Our Top 10 Florence Attractions
Holidays in Florence are always high on the "To Do" List of anyone planning a trip to Italy.
Florence, the capital of Tuscany, was the epicenter of the European Renaissance from the 14th to the 16th centuries. As a result, it possesses a wealth of architectural and artistic masterpieces that is unparalleled. Florence's dozens of museums and galleries, as well as its cathedrals and palaces, house magnificent collections from a variety of historical periods. Almost everywhere you go in Florence, you're sure to discover something that delights the senses, but if you're looking for a place to start, here are some of the places you won't want to miss.
Churches and Cathedrals
1. Basilica de Santa Maria del Fiore
The most famous church in Florence, the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore is better known as the Duomo. This cathedral, long recognized as a symbol of the city itself, boasts a breathtaking dome and a façade accented with green and pink marble panels. Holidays in Florence wouldn't be complete without spending time in this magnificent building.
In the nearby Piazza Del Duomo, you'll find the baptistery of John the Baptist, one of the oldest buildings in Florence and famed for its impressive gold doors.
Giotto's Tower is another must-see attraction. With 414 steps, the tower takes you high above Florence for a breathtaking view of the city.
2. Basilica de Santa Croce
Santa Croce is the largest Franciscan church in Italy and the burial place of Michelangelo, Machiavelli and Galileo. It also houses a memorial to the poet Dante. Inside you'll find some breathtaking stained glass windows and frescoes. The church is situated on the Piazza Santa Croce, which features fashionable boutiques and leather workshops.
3. Church of San Lorenzo
Designed by Michelangelo, this was the official church of the powerful Medici family. Family members are buried in the Medici Chapels.
Museums and Galleries
There are literally dozens of museums open to the public. From large, public art collections to small museums dedicated to a specific artist or creator, it can be difficult to decide where best to spend your time.
4. The Uffizi Gallery
If this is your first holiday in Florence and you only have time to visit one museum, make it the Uffizi Gallery, long recognized as one of the greatest museums in the world. It showcases 13th to 18th century art from many of the masters, including Michelangelo, Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, Rubens, and Rembrandt.
It's a good idea to purchase your ticket online as the lines can be very long. You can take a guided tour if you wish. If you don't know as much as you'd like about art history, a tour guide can make your visit more enjoyable.
5. Accademia Gallery
This gallery houses Michelangelo's sculpture of David. Again, this is a very popular attraction, and lines can snake through the streets in peak season. If you're planning a holiday in Florence during the summer months, online tickets are a good idea, even if they cost a little extra.
Other excellent museums are the Museum of San Marco, the National Museum of the Bargello, and the da Vinci and Medici museums.
Piazzas, Shops and Bridges
6. Piazza della Signoria
Close to the Uffizi gallery, the piazza features a copy of Michelangelo's David, along with a collection of other sculptures. The nearby Palazzo Vecchio is another famous Florence attraction that's well worth visiting, and you'll find a number of cafes and restaurants in this area. Notable places include Caffè Gilli, Paszkowski, Caffè Giubbe Rosse, and Caffè Gambrinus.
7. Ponte Vecchio
Of the six Florentine bridges crossing the Arno, the oldest, the Ponte Vecchio (or old bridge) is also the most famous, and the only Florentine bridge to survive the second World War. The Ponte Vecchio's wooden planks and old stone pillars are lined with small shops and vendors, selling jewelry much as they did in the time of Medici family, who were very influential in Florence during the Renaissance.
8. Boboli Gardens
On the south bank of the Arno River, you can stroll through the Boboli Gardens to enjoy extensive landscaping and a unique sculpture collection. This is a great place to take time out from sightseeing and just relax.
Close to the Boboli Gardens, the Pitti Palace is Florence's largest palazzo, and was owned by the Medici family.
9. Piazza San Lorenzo
The most famous open-air market in Florence is the Piazza San Lorenzo. If you love markets, you definitely need to spend time here. Whether you're browsing or buying, this is one of the most enjoyable places to stroll around in Florence.
10. Piazzale Michelangelo
If you're looking for a stunning view away from the downtown area, you can climb the Rampe di San Niccolo stairs or take a bus to the Piazzale Michelangelo, a charming plaza with a great view of the city. Its nickname is the 'balcony of Florence'.
At the Piazza della Repubblica, there are many famous cafes where scholars and artists would meet. A great place to sit and do as the Italians do: people watch. Makes for a lively venue at night, but be warned – it can be expensive.
One of the great pleasures of holidays in Florence is the number of neighborhoods, piazzas and gardens that offer excellent views of the city. You can always take a tour, or simply take your time visiting the small museums, shops, and other Florentine attractions. Walking tours of the downtown area are readily available, as this is where many of the most notable sites, structures, and museums can be found. The Artisan Quarter was historically a locus for artists, and remains so to this day.
Whether you take a guided tour, rent a bicycle, or just head out into Florence on foot, you're sure to find unique and charming sites wherever you go. Start in the downtown area to experience the most famous of Florence's history, and don't be afraid to follow a whim. In a city with the history, culture, art, architecture and cuisine that Florence offers, you won't be disappointed.
[*Florence museum times and ticket information is available at Firenzi Musei or Uffizi Tickets.]